Sunday, 24 August 2014

Mile End Juniors parkrun (#15)

It wasn't long ago that the junior parkrun series only consisted of about 3 or so venues. However, the junior series has grown quite significantly during the last year, and we decided to visit Mile End Juniors parkrun for Matilda's very first official parkrun.

briefing and warm-up session with kelly sotherton [photo: 7r]

The Mile End Junior parkrun takes place in Mile End Park, in East London, on part of the original 5k Mile End parkrun course. I visited the full 5k event back in September 2013 and as I was back in the park, I decided to squeeze in my Sunday running by completing two freedom runs - one on the 5k course and another on the 2k course.

and they're off... [photo: dani]

With those done, it was time to hang out at the start area and wait for the run to begin. Now, by complete coincidence we had turned up on the same day as the Join in crew, who had brought with them Great Britain athlete (with an Olympic bronze to her name) Kelly Sotherton and a film crew from ITV news. I offered my services as a volunteer but they had all roles covered so I was free to wander the course with the legendary Craigie-Lee Paterson offering encouragement to the 13 junior runners.

mile end juniors event 15 [photo: dani]

As far as facilities go, there are toilets, showers and changing rooms right next to the start. You can park for free on Copperfield Road. Mile End tube station is adjacent to the park and gives easy access to anyone travelling from a little further than the immediate local area.

almost at halfway [photo: dani]

Before the run started, the children were treated to a fab pre-run talk from Kelly Sotherton who then went on to lead them through a brilliant warm up session. She also presented some of the regular runners with their junior parkrun wristbands. I had never seen Matilda so excited about, well, anything - she had been asking to run with the children for ages and had woken up at about 6am that morning really excited and bouncing around the house, eager to get to the 'baba race' as she calls it!

luke gets a hi-five [photo: dani]

The run starts at the same place as its 5k sibling and heads off in a northerly direction following the left side of the double paths. The course consists of two laps of a 1k out and back route which takes place on the park's double paths. The runners head out on the left hand path and has some really nice sweeping curves and even a little hump (which must seem like a proper hill to those tiny legs) for the juniors to tackle.

i ran the last part with matilda [photo: dani]

So after weaving around to the far end of the course, the runners perform a 180 degree turn and head back along the other side of the double path. There are marshals positioned roughly every 100 metres or so and they are absolutely wonderful - encouraging the kids and offering hi-fives all the way around.

about to complete her first parkrun

Matilda was joined by her cousins Holly and Luke for today's run - they had both previously run at Bushy Juniors parkrun on a few occasions so it was good to see the three of them out there together enjoying the course.

don't forget your barcode

Once the run had finished and barcodes had been scanned all three of the Stockwell juniors were interviewed by the ITV film crew, which was totally unexpected and really exciting for them. (I'll add a link if the piece is put online).

stars of the small screen

The results were online a short while after and Matilda had managed to open her junior parkrun account at the age of 4 years and 5 days old with a time of 19.44 and scored a 40.54% age grading. It is a great little course and I am pretty confident in saying that we'll be back here in the future.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Dartford parkrun 5 - Matilda's first credited volunteering role, perfect conditions and perfect pacing

Event five started much the same as the previous four. Arrive at 7ish, set up the course with Richey, then head over to the Dartford Harriers clubhouse to await the arrival of the volunteers and runners. This weekend was the August bank holiday and we had struggled a little with attracting volunteers. Fortunately we just managed to scrape by.

bridge over the river darent

So the big news for the Stockwell family this week was that as Matilda had turned 4 earlier in the week and finally been able to register on the parkrun website, she could now be added to the volunteering roster and be credited for her contribution over at Stones corner. Very exciting. We were also joined by my niece who assisted Matilda in her role.

a section of our course

The conditions turned out to be pretty perfect for running and I headed off ever-so-slightly slower than I had in the previous four outings. At the half-way point I was hanging in tenth position but managed to put in a really good second half of the run and moved up through the field before finally finishing in 5th place (and only 1 second behind 4th).

end of lap one [photo: richey]

This week my partner in barcode scanning crime, Tessa, was away and I picked up my volunteering duty of scanning immediately after finishing the run and quickly got to work. The sun made reading the barcodes a little difficult again, but using the usual tricks of the barcode scanning trade, they all went through just fine. I was joined by Dani after she had finished marshaling at Stones Corner.

a helping hand [photo: dani]

Once the scanning had been completed, I headed around the course to collect the signage before joining the rest of the gang in the Dartford Harriers clubhouse for some tea while the results were being processed. My results text message came through very quickly and I had run yet another personal best - that means I have still managed to go faster every single time I have run the course. I was only 6 seconds off my overall 5k personal best, which is fantastic considering I set that on a flat tarmac course.

matilda in the central park 'jack in the box' [photo: dani]

With all that done, it was time to head home via the playground with my arms full of stanchions which I eventually managed to spread amongst the rest of the Stockwell clan.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Dartford parkrun 4 - introducing parkrun to a friend, the future parkrunner, and her proud dad (me)

Regular readers of the blog might be disappointed not to be reading about the inaugural Folkestone or Woking parkruns. I too am slightly disappointed at not being able to run at one of these venues this weekend. However, I have found a new love in my parkrun world and that is Dartford parkrun. I can't bear to leave at the moment, so the touring side of parkrun, and the venue blogs, are on hold indefinitely.


So with that off my chest, let me tell you about Dartford parkrun 4. It started in the usual way - I arrived at just after 7am to begin setting the course up with Richey. The signage modifications have settled down and I think we're pretty much there with what works. The one remaining issue for me is the transporting of the stanchions (which currently live in my garage) to and from the venue.

I refuse to drive 1.5km to the venue so end up run-walking with them. It's not ideal, so we are currently looking into the option of using a storage container in the park. It has been offered to us but needs a little work before it can be used. Hopefully we'll get this sorted soon and I can be stanchion-free for my warm up jog and journey home in future!

the reverse view of the medieval bridge [photo:7t]

Something that was a little different this week (and will hopefully be a regular thing) was that my friend (who is the wife of one of my best school friends), Marie, was kind enough to come down to the park with her children, Jack and Caitlyn, to help as volunteers. The plan was for her to be a marshal, but due to the overwhelming response to a last minute volunteer appeal, we had enough people to fill those roles and Marie unexpectedly became the funnel manager. I'm extremely grateful for her help and I hope she comes back to volunteer some more in the future.

I ran the 5k (which featured a hi-five from Jack as I finished my first lap) and then took up my volunteering role as a barcode scanner again. It really seems to work well and barcode scanning has been my favourite volunteering role for a long time now. Once everyone had been scanned, the wonderful Tessa took the scanner and processed the results - which would have been done in lightening time if it wasn't for the computer deciding to update itself after being switched on!

mick (aka matt jagger), matilda, and me in a 'may' sandwich [photo: richey]

Something else that I have been unable to shut up about is what my daughter did post-run. We were in the Dartford Harriers clubhouse and she went out onto the track ans started running laps. Bear in mind that she is still 3 years old (but only just). She seems to have an incredible natural ability to pace herself and slowly worked her way around the 400 metre loop.

When she had finished one of her laps, I asked if she was feeling ok. Her response was to get down into the 'starting position' and shout 'AGAIN' - which was my cue to say 'ready, set, GO!'. And off she went at an amazingly steady pace once again (I think she did about 7 laps in total). She is four years old this week and will be able to finally register as a parkunner. I was worried that she might find her first junior parkrun (planned for next weekend) a little on the long side. However after watching her display on the track, it looks like she will be ok with the 2k distance -  although I expect she'll take the odd walking break.

at the dartford harriers athletics track

It had been another successful event. As a bonus, I ran another Dartford parkrun personal best, which means I have run faster every single time I have run at the event. It's nice having the streak of personal bests but this must surely be the last one of this streak. I can't imagine how I could lower it any further in such a short timeframe.

And just to finish off the post, here is a photo of me with some of my SLGR team mates who were at Dartford parkrun event 4.


Once everything had been sorted, we headed over to the playground with Marie, Jack and Caitlyn to let them enjoy the rest of the sunny morning in Dartford Central Park.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Mid Kent 5 Miler 2014

I signed up to this race for one reason - to run a new 5 mile personal best. I had heard that the course was fairly flat, with just a few mild undulations, and that it had pb potential, plus my standing 5 mile personal best was run at the Fairoaks Five 2013, which is a trail race and was run in the middle of a torrential rain storm in October 2013. Beating that time would be child's play.

i was wondering which way to go, then i saw this.... [photo: 7t]

One thing about this race that is special is that it was the first one that I had entered since becoming an affiliated member of a running club, so I received a discount of £2 over the unaffiliated £12 entry fee. I signed up using the runners world website, so after they had added their booking fee it worked out that I paid £11.50.

the clubhouse - refreshments, race hq, toilets, showers, bbq [photo: 7t]

The Mid Kent 5 Miler website contained all the necessary information such as course map, parking, prizes etc.. There was also a Facebook group which I found very helpful. The race HQ was at the Staplehurst Cricket and Tennis club, on the day I left home at 7am and arrived by about 8am. The race start time was scheduled for 9am so that left me an hour to collect my number and timing chip, warm up, use the facilities (there were toilets inside the clubhouse and some portaloos outside), take some photos and to chat with any familiar faces I might bump into along the way.

timing chip [photo: 7t]

At a couple of minutes before 9am, the race director (Nick Jordan) called all of the runners to the briefing point just inside the grounds of the club. He gave a very good briefing complete with course description and warnings that the roads, while quiet, were still open to traffic. We were then lead the 100 metres or so along the adjacent road to the start line.

nice smooth surface (like this) most of the way round [photo:7t]

I knew that I would finish somewhere towards the front of the field so I made sure that my starting position roughly reflected that. The race was then started and I headed off as part of a crowd of 247 runners out onto the country lanes around Staplehurst, which was probably quite scenic - but as you'll read in a second, my vision was slightly compromised during the race.

being in the countryside, you get to see sheeps [photo:7t]

The forecast had been warning of heavy rain and strong winds - something to do with hurricane bertha apparently (another wet five miler was about to unfold), so it was a relief to find that at this point the rain was fairly light. The first mile of the race had quite a bit of position jostling going on as usual, but once that first mile was out of the way, those that had started a little too fast naturally started to fall into their appropriate paces and things settled down.

more tarmac [photo:7t]

As I mentioned before, the race takes place on country lanes. It is 99% tarmac, which is mostly smooth but some of the smaller roads are a little worn and ever-so-slightly pot-holed. The first of the noticeable undulations comes at around 3.5km on the approach to the village of Frittenden. By this point the rain had got much heavier, my glasses were covered in rainwater and everything was now just a blur. I could only just make out the marshal and signage up ahead - both of which were excellent all the way around the course by the way.

more sheepses [photo:7t]

At 5.5km there was another slightly steeper section. I wouldn't call it a hill but there was a noticeable incline. Shortly after this point, I spotted Tony Giles, the event director of Great Lines parkrun with its incredibly awesome downhill finish (I have run there twice - the inaugural and the christmas day special). I can't remember the last race I ran in Kent where I didn't bump into him - he's a top guy and is easily spotted in his trademark hat. I had chatted to him before the race and knew that he would have his camera ready to take some snaps around the course.

i'd love to claim that i was just too fast for the camera [photo: tony giles]

As I passed him, he took a picture of me but as you can see from the photo, the weather conditions didn't make it easy for him, Thinking about it, the picture looks a lot clearer than anything I could see through my glasses, so I'm really happy with it! I really appreciated the support and am very grateful that he let me use the photo on the blog.

the last section is on the beautifully manicured cricket ground grass [photo:7t]

The remainder of the course was flat and before I knew it, I was running back down the road towards the cricket and tennis club. I had been following another runner for the entire race and as we neared the end I noticed that he had caught the runner in front of him and I was doing the same, but as we entered the grounds of the club he was still just too far in front to catch. The very last section of the race took the runners off of the tarmac and onto a short stretch of grass and straight to the finish line.

selfie (with medal showing the inscription on the reverse side) [photo:7t]

As always at races, the finish line is a welcome sight. And with the rain still falling, I was now soaked from head to toe and my shoes were squelching with every footstep. There were some children giving out medals at the end of the finish funnel and then there were cups of water on a table, which was another welcome sight. After a minute or so I had recovered enough to start thinking straight....

finally out of the wet gear... [photo:7t]

... however, I was dripping wet with rain water and starting to shiver, so after I chatting to a couple of other runners, I grabbed my bag of dry clothes (and my towel, which I actually remember to bring this time!) from the car and went into the clubhouse and made use of the changing facilities within. If I had been more organised, I would have brought some soap and used the showers too.

... and into something dry [photo:7t]

The provisional results were printed and displayed on the clubhouse door shortly after I had finished so I had a little peep at those to discover that I had finished in 10th position overall (out of 247 finishers). There were a few names missing at this stage (I imagine they were probably on-the-day entrants) but my position was correct. The official results were put online later that same day.

the provisional mens results [photo:7t]

I am happy to report that I achieved my goal of running a new personal best (no surprise there) time of 30.48, which gave me an age grading of 71.7%. I beat my previous 5 mile personal best by 3 minutes and 10 seconds. Everything seemed to go really well apart from the weather (which got even worse during the drive home), but even that brought with it its own charm. A big thumbs up to the organising team and the marshals!
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